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Sexual Confusion

No temptation affects more people more powerfully than sex. Virtually everywhere we are assaulted daily by our national obsession. Supermarket magazines shamelessly flaunt cleavage at us, TV prides itself on pushing the envelope, films offer up a perpetual parade of busty young starlets eager to do "tasteful nudity," while popular music, if you can call it that, only further degrades God's most exciting gift to humankind.

I don't need me to catalog the sorry legacy of promiscuity. Over 25% of people in their 20's and 30's got sexually transmitted diseases just in the last year. I’m told that most children start oral sex at age 12. Abortion, pornography, divorce and illicit affairs are all ravaging our families and the entire society.

Sadly, the Church isn't helping much. Surveys tell us Christians struggle with sex equal numbers to their non-religious neighbors. Churchianity is more a part of the problem than the solution. If our only weapon in the arsenal against sexual sin is guilt-laced sermons, we are hurting not helping.

Sex has been a constant battle for me. I had a very active sex life from my early teens until my conversion at 22. I then remained celibate until my marriage at 27.  I often fought a daily fight against temptation. Attractive and needy clients and parishioners, pornography and "adult" nightclubs often beckoned. I committed adultery in my heart hundreds of times.

So how do we deal with the sexual swamp that engulfs us daily? Can we ever clean up our act? Where does healing come in?

This is where conservative churches complicate things. We say all sins are equal in God's sight but we don't really mean it. If Bible believing preachers address the issue at all it's usually to rail against the sins of divorce, or pornography, or immorality. Using guilt like this seldom works. It usually makes compounds our problems. Rebellion is so deeply rooted in us that as soon as someone tells us no, we want to like never before.

Guilt-laced sermons reveals more about the condition of the preacher than his flock. Remember how Jimmy Swaggart used to rail against sexual sin? We soon found out why. Sex caused him real problems.

CS Lewis wrote a book called SURPRISED BY JOY. If I wrote one on temptation I would call it SURPRISED BY GRACE. Like many Christians I have grappled with an overactive guilt mechanism. It's been largely responsible for my inordinate grief in this area.

Years ago I watched a movie that had strong sexual content. I felt powerless to change the cable channel. I was shocked when lightening didn't strike me dead. I was surprised by grace. And that marvelous surprising grace somehow made me less vulnerable, not more.

The Bible says, "Sin shall not have dominion over us because we are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). Amazing. The very thing that saps the strength of sin is grace.   I used to think if I cut myself some slack I'd do worse! Another passage says, "The strength of sin is the law" (I Cor. 15:56).

The Apostle Paul had his own personal battle against "evil concupiscence" (immoral sexual desire - cf. Romans 7:8). I've taken great comfort from his vulnerable and courageous admission that he did the very things he hated and didn't do the things he knew to be good (Romans 7:19). Thank God HE never attended a seminary or Bible college that taught him to not be open with his flock.

Vulnerability from Christian leaders would go a long ways towards helping people honestly face their sin and find real help. James says healing is released when the elders confess "one to another" with those in need (James 5:14-16). This most certainly applies as much if not more so to spiritual healing as it does to physical. All great revivals begin with confession. If elders and church leaders began mutual confession with the hurting, broken and wounded, tremendous healing would follow.

Sin dwells within us (Romans7:20). Science has shown that every memory we have ever had is indelibly recorded within the brain, along with all the feelings associated with it. We carry within us the residue of every sin we've ever committed.

So what are we to do? Jesus is the Christ, the anointed One; the One who came to rescue us not only from the penalty of sin but also from its power. He does so by healing our broken places and thus freeing us from our indentured servitude to sin. If we try to just treat the symptoms of our brokenness, we will never solve the root cause. Telling people all they need to do is repent is like telling a fat man all he must do is stop eating so much. Say that and he will only want to eat more.

I saw this at my first growth retreat over 25 years ago. I had to face the lust in my heart. God not only protected me from my own sin, but He also showed me how my temptation was rooted in the death of my grandfather when I was just ten. I had never really healed the damage his death had done to my soul. I never before faced the walls I built up against ever suffering like that again; walls which kept out hurt, but which also precluded real love and deep, close relationships. When I finally faced my pain and determined to risk love and loss it set the tone for my entire ministry. It also helped me stay faithful to my wife for the next 20 years.

An intensive healing retreat during my mid-life crisis again forced my sexual vulnerabilities to surface. It also gave me an opportunity to discover the role that childhood traumas played in my own self hatred, fueling my inner torture, making me yearn for sensual anesthetics to ease my inner agony.
Once my underlying pain was healed, I was stopped bludgeoning my soul into holy submission. With the pain gone, I didn't need emotional aspirin.

Grace was an essential part of my healing as well. Someone said grace is God's Riches At Christ's Expense. It is undeserved blessing and reward. Years ago, I heard a wonderful Bible teacher liken our situation with sin to that of a little sparrow sitting on the end of a branch, reluctant to breathe for fear he may use up all the oxygen in the universe. This wise teacher said that the grace of God is as limitless as oxygen and that God wants to say to us, "Go ahead little sparrow. Take a deep breath. There's enough for your need."
All we must do to receive grace is confess (I John1:9) It doesn't say, we must repent, genuflect, and run around the church three times while promising to never do it again. I know myself too well to make such vain promises. All God asks is that we confess and we are forgiven. That's it. The righteous person falls many times but he gets back up each time. In the process, he learns a lot about himself and God's love.

So how do we deal with our sin? Sin is like a cold virus, it sort of has to run its course. Eventually, I gag on the very idea of drinking from moral sewers and thirst again for the crystal clear, cool, satisfying waters of life. Having faithful people with whom I can share honestly what I am truly like helps a lot.

We use small intimate sharing groups at my retreats to do exactly that. They offer people a place where they can come clean with someone; to provided them with others just like themselves with whom they can risk admitting where they really live. We don't just need God in Heaven; sometimes we need God with skin -- people who love us like God does. God's love isn't a "Because of" kind of love, it's an "In spite of" kind of love. Once we know that, once we truly believe it, we can face our sin and find real, lasting help. We can heal our brokenness and be liberated from our wounds. This is what Christ came for, and through authentic fellowship, it's freely available to us all.

Jesus lived with His disciples for three years. They saw him angry, hurting, crying and afraid. His humanity was as evident to them as His divinity. If it hadn't been, they never could have found the grace to change their world. If we see it too, we just might change ours.                                  



Ken Unger is President of and founder of, where you can learn more about him and his transformative ministry. click here ,
 "Ken's new book, The Ultimate Breakthrough, goes beyond self help to self healing. You can preview it at  The Ultimate Breakthrough "
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